CBN’s David Brody has the proposed language for the Democrats platform plank on abortion, and contrary to some expectations, it appears the voices for “change”–such as Democrats for Life and Feminists for Life–have made important headway. TNR had a good piece on Dems for Life, called “Life Support: Inside the battle over abortion’s place in the Democratic platform.” It seems they may have gotten as much, if not more, than they hoped for. Catholics United has responded positively, as well, and I’m sure our own Alexia Kelley will weigh in here.
(Compare the proposed language and the current plank at the end.)
Also deeply involved was the much-maligned (by his erstwhile friends from the pro-life right) Doug Kmiec, the former Reagan and Bush administration official and pro-life Catholic who has courted controversy (and been denied communion at least once) for supporting Barack Obama.
Kmiec offers his views on the proposed plank here, with this excerpt particularly worthy of note:
The Republicans are dug in on seeking the elusive 5th vote to overturn Roe, but even with all the past Republican appointments to the Court, that is unlikely. And in any event, overturning Roe does nothing directly to save a life; it merely tosses the issue to the states which may or may not affirm life.
Catholic teaching tells us when we reach an impasse for life, we need to seek out another way – to make at least some progress in building up the culture of life. Interestingly, that’s where Obama’s effort has guided the Democratic platform.
Yes, there is the reaffirmation of Roe, but it is now matched with a full-throated call for efforts to address the irresponsibility of kids having kids, through appropriate educational efforts emphasizing the maturity and responsibility that must accompany sexual intimacy.
The most important Obama-inspired addition to the platform is the explicit call for greater respect for prenatal assistance, paid maternity leave, and if a woman is unable to raise her child, a sensitively structured and caring adoption system. To have the Democrats in the “strongly support” column for these measures in favor of life should not go unnoticed.
That still leaves the Democratic Party Platform well short of where honoring all life needs to be from a Catholic perspective, but it moves the ball considerably toward the side that favors life from the moment of conception.
Two questions are central here:
First, is there any moral value to this shift, or is it political expediency, with no reference to how Obama and the Dems would govern if elected? Certainly, political platforms, while important in principle, are, well, political. Michael Kinlsey got it spot-on with his Sunday NYT op-ed, “Learning to Read Democrat.”
But this latest move also reflects the true Wisdom of Solomon. Rather than standing on a principle that sounds sensible in the abstract but is horrible in reality–cutting a baby in half, or, in our contemporary situation, focusing exclusively on Roe v. Wade while ignoring the ongoing abortion epidemic–the proposed language attempts to save the baby by promoting real abortion alternatives that will force pro-lifers to, well, choose life. Or not. And the same will go for pro-choicers who are often loathe to accept any language that would indicate moral ambivalence about abortion.
Second point: Will it work? Will this peel any conservative Evangelicals and Catholics away from the GOP? Will it give folks like Kmiec cover to support Obama? I doubt it, though even if it softens McCain’s support by a point or two, that could be the margin of victory. Besides, the language supporting Roe v. Wade comes first and is “unequivocal,” and many pro-lifers will read no further.
But I see it as the first necessary step toward political relevance and moral realism in tackling this most explosive of the culture war weapons. The fruits will be reaped in coming election cycles–but only IF the platform plank passes, and only IF Obama makes this policy a regular part of his campaign rhetoric, and finally, only IF an eventual Obama administration tries to put the plank into practice.
Here is the new proposed language:
The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v Wade and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.The Democratic Party also strongly supports access to affordable family planning services and comprehensive age-appropriate sex education which empower people to make informed choices and live healthy lives. We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman’s decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre and post natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs.
Here is the current plank in the Democratic Party platform:
Because we believe in the privacy and equality of women, we stand proudly for a woman’s right to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of her ability to pay. We stand firmly against Republican efforts to undermine that right. At the same time, we strongly support family planning and adoption incentives. Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.